Being Evel (2015) Script

The following program is brought to you in living colour.

Tonight, we have Evel Knievel.

He's probably the only man in history that has become very wealthy by trying to kill himself.

It's true. He's somewhat of a legend.

He does incredible stunts with motorcycles.

He has broken, I guess, more bones than anybody in history.

Yet he keeps at this.

Let's meet the gentleman. Here is Evel Knievel.

I grew up in the 70s. And Evel Knievel was the 70s.

He captured my imagination like no one else.

Some of you may have seen this film before.

This is a jump you made at Caesar's Palace. What happened?

The motorcycle landed short and ripped the handlebars out of my hands.

I bounced for 60 yards into the Dunes parking lot.

God... you're an incredible man.

I didn't think of him as a daredevil.

I thought of him as a superhero.

No one ever went for it like that before.

He invented that.

Since then, it has taken off in a major way.

That's such a large part of our culture now.

He inspired all that.

But, there will never be another Evel.

I've been called a lot of things by a lot of people, crazy man, or con man.

But when you head down that long white line you better have made your peace with God and know what you are doing because a con man ain't gonna get there.

I didn't know... the story of the man.

And it was, you know, pretty complex.

California judge has ordered motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel to serve out the rest of a jail sentence behind bars.

I'm a grown-ass man and... some of the stuff is tough to reconcile.

It's a crazy story.

It's just fast, faster, and disaster.


♪ Friends say it's fine. Friends say it's good.

♪ Everybody says it's just like rock'n'roll.

♪ I move like a cat, charge like a ram, ♪ sting like a bee.

♪ Babe, I wanna be your man.

♪ Well, it's plain to see you were meant for me, yeah!

♪ I'm your boy, your 20th century toy.


I was a member of the sportscasters association of Los Angeles.

We used to have monthly meetings on a Thursday at a place called Red Tractors.

Everybody who was anybody came.

Tommy Lasorda, Billy Jean King, was there, Muhammad Ali when he was Cassius Clay first made his appearance here.

They were legitimate athletes in their chosen professions.

All of a sudden there was this commotion on Ventura Boulevard.

There was this nutcase going up and down doing wheelies.

I didn't know what a wheelie was until they explained it to me.

People didn't do wheelies up and down the road.

That was crazy, on a rear wheel of a motorcycle, going 80 miles per hour going waaa...

Everybody stopped and would go "Ohh, look at that!"

Even the hard-bitten sports announcers of that day and age were taken aback by this guy, who of course turned out to be Evel Knievel.

If you told me he was going to be world famous I would say you're nuts.

If you are going to try and understand Evel, you got to go back to his childhood.

His parents split up and left town.

So he was basically raised by his grandparents.

Grandma and grandpa did the best they could do.

He was just rambunctious, I guess.

Maybe he didn't have that attention as a young boy when he needed it.

Truth is, Bobby was kind of angry with his father because he didn't get to stay with him.

That's what I think.

He wanted to be with his father.

We were up at my grandma's house.

He and I were wrestling around.

I punched him in the mouth.

He lit on the back of his head.

I said "Bobby..." And nothing.

I thought "Oh my god, I killed him."

And instantly he had these wild eyes because he knew what had happened.

Across the kitchen there was a door that was slightly open, the pantry door.

He ran at that door and slammed it shut with his head.

That half stunned him again.

He turned around sitting down and he pointed at me.

He said "Did you see that?

"Nobody can hurt me. You can't hurt me."

"Nobody can hurt me."

I think growing up in Butte, Montana without a father would... would be hard to handle, I would think.

Butte, Montana was just a tough-ass mining town.

When the mines were going full the bars were open 24 hours.

There was a lot of prostitution.

There was about 3000 whores at that time.

There was just miners drinking and fighting You had to learn to cope in Butte.

Sometimes coping meant with your fists.

You fought. You stood up like a man.

You fought. You were taught that.

That's part of the Butte credo.

You just don't back down.

Knievel was a fighter from the get go even during grade school.

He would get a little obnoxious at times.

You'd have to settle him down.

Well, you couldn't dare him.

If you'd dare him, he'd do it.

I remember when Bob got his first motorcycle.

I don't know why he had two tyres.

He always rode around on the back one.

You never knew what he was gonna do with that motorcycle in town.

He would be riding it all over raising hell with everybody.

He liked to have the cops chase him.

You couldn't catch him on a bike when you were in a patrol car.

One day I go run up to the store.

Who's up there? Big bad Knievel, you know.

He was a character.

I was scared but I was kind of flattered.

"Gee, he is paying attention to me."

Then one day he said "You are gonna marry me."

The story is that he kidnapped her.

I don't know if he kidnapped her or not.

That might have been something they were planning together anyhow.

Who knows?

Yeah, I guess I was kidnapped.

I was just walking home from school that day when he said "Get in the car."

I don't know it was just... something just almost overtook me and...

He drove me down to Dillon and... danged if we didn't get married there.

He had some weird ideas about how life should be lived.

He thought that he should be at the top of the heap.

That's why he did the stuff he did to make money.

He'd run it if there was a shady side to it.

He was happier if there was something shady about it.

He made up his own job.

Actually, he started working as a security officer at night.

He had a route and used to go around at 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock in the morning and check all the different establishments.

You'd pay him to be sure the doors were locked.

If you didn't pay him you might be robbed within a month.

He broke into my place.

He might've got 40 or 50 dollars or like that but... nothing big.

Yeah, he ran a racket. No question about it.

The police called me up and told me that there was a known safe-cracker in town.

I knew they were talking about Evel.

He was a crook.

A con-man I guess you'd call him.

At the age of 19 he starts a semi-pro hockey team... and convinces the Czechoslovakian national team to come to Butte to play them. (Laughs)

And the Czechs kill them. Like smoke them 22 to 3.

But I don't think Evel was that upset about the score.

I think he left in the middle of the second period and the money disappeared. There was no money to pay them.

Draw your own conclusions. Where did the money go?

Butte likes people who bounce up against the edges of the envelope.

They're forgiving about some criminal activity.

But they don't particularly like criminals.

He had three kids at the time.

Threw all of his burglar bags in the river and decided to go straight.

So Knievel gets this job selling insurance for Combined Insurance Company.

It was run by this guy, W. Clement Stone, who wrote a book called 'Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude'.

I feel happy. I feel happy.

I feel terrific.

I think it really changed his thinking drastically.

He was that way to begin with and it just intensified it.

He was a legendary salesman.

When he was selling insurance he was selling insurance, and he was selling a lot of it.

I remember he went to the mental hospital...

I think it was Deer Lodge.

And he wrote two hundred and seventy-one policies in this hospital... mental hospital.

It was a super record.

Nobody had written that many policies in a week ever.

He talked to the president of the company at that time and said "I'll break every record in the company.

"Every single one that exists.

"You make me a Vice President after I do that."

And Mr. Stawn says "Sorry, that isn't going to happen."

Well, Knievel didn't like that.

So he picks up his family and moves to Moses Lake, Washington where he gets a job selling Honda motorcycles.

He was making a good living at it but it wasn't good enough for him.

He says "I think I need to do something... weird.

"Some kind of a stunt

"so it'll get people to come down here and see the motorcycles."

So he had this crazy idea about doing this jump.

He says "I'm gonna jump over cougars and rattle snakes."

I said "You got to be kidding me!"

My part in that mountain lion jump was I wore a white coat like a doctor and Evel introduced me as a veterinarian, which was a crock of bull but...

So he brings them down and put the cougars underneath.

They are scared to death. They won't come out.

They were like kitty cats.

But the snakes! Holy Christ!

We put them in a big refrigerator carton and they were pissed off!

He goes around the track and then he goes up the ramp...

The minute he went up in the air I could see he wasn't gonna make it.

My god, he was about three feet short.

His back Tyre hits a refrigerator carton.

The snakes go flipping into the crowd.

Talk about people running and getting out of there.

Jesus Christ! (Laughs)

The poor guy from Vantage wants us to help catch his snakes!

I says you gotta be kidding me!

He just rode back on his motorcycle and went up the jump and waved at the crowd. He didn't care about the snakes.

People started talking to him - "What can you do next?"

And he started thinking about that kind of stuff.

That's when he come up with the idea of starting a stunt show.

I told him "They are going to eat you up, boy.

"You'll never make it."

I was a bartender at Marty's Bar in Orange, California.

And this fella comes in sits at the end of the bar and we start talking.

Well, he's a motorcycle daredevil.

He had jumped rattle snakes.

He wants to do a big ramp-to-ramp jump.

He said people will go wild.

He just convinced me.

Somehow, I was able to get two pickups, a tractor, and a 40-foot trailer.

The logo on the side was

"Evel" Knievel and His Motorcycle Daredevils.

The name Evel came from his wild years in Butte.

He was given that name by the cops.

He was in jail with a guy named Knawful.

They said "Well, better lock up the doors. Pretty good tonight.

"We got an awful Knawful and an evil Knievel in here."

He heard that and liked that.

He changed it to E V E L because he didn't want to sound too evil.

He got a bunch of people working with him.

Good guys like Sweet Savage and Eddie Mulder and Klesh Fargo.

So he started thinking up different stunts to do.

The flaming boards... we'd soak them in gasoline and light it on fire.

And he'd hit that first board and just go...

Boom! The sparks! The stuff would fly in the air!

Then... Boom, hit the second one!

The sparks would fly!

Boom! Hit the third one, the forth one and the fifth one!

Somehow Bob got this midget, Butch Wilhelm, and talked him into joining the show.

Bob said "He will do everything I do in miniature."

And he would crash on every single one.

So it looked like when Bob was going to make his jump something terrible is going to happen.

He was such a crazy son of a bitch.

He'd do these stunts and he never tried them before.

One time he had a motorcycle run at him at about 60 miles per hour and he jumped up, but he didn't jump high enough.

And the motorcycle hit him and flipped him over.

He was sprained from his waist to his ankles.

I think at that point he decided he was going to stick to jumping with the motorcycles.

The equipment my dad jumped on, compared to what is going on today... unbelievable.

The thing weighed 500 pounds.

It'd be like jumping a dump truck over all those cars.

But he'd do it anyway.

I was the speedometer for Evel.

I'd stand there and watch him and say

"You're going fast enough" or "You're not going fast enough."

I guess you'd call it guesswork.

Bob jumped further and further with each show.

The only thing is... those stands were not full, not by any means.

How do you convince people to come to a sport they never heard of?

We were 52,000 dollars in debt.

Bob kept spending money we didn't have.

That's when I decided I had to leave.

Of course, then he saw that he didn't need the team.

He went on his own.

Now, it would just be him looking for his big break.

TV: Spanning the globe...

"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport."

For years, I caught myself singing it in my sleep.

"The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

TV: And the agony of defeat!

"The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."

And they always showed that skier... where you never knew, the word was he died.

The crash, that's what you remember from the Wide World of Sports.

TV: The human drama of athletic competition!

I remember the crazy stuff they would show once in a while.

Skate-boarding was on Wide World of Sports.

I remember that.

TV: ABC's Wide World of Sports...

We were in the business of sports theatre.

Sports was drama. Sports was a story.

I loved it. I covered some of the weirdest things myself, whatever brought in an audience.

America loved it.

TV: The human drama of athletic competition!

Everybody rushed home from church and watched ABC's Wide World of Sports at one o'clock.

That was the biggest show on TV.

TV: ABC's Wide World of Sports!

Evel knows that the motorcycle race at Askot Speedway is featured on Wide World of Sports.

So he fast-talks the owner into letting him do his thing.

Before we get back to racing I'd like to introduce to you a most unusual young man.

This is Evel Knievel.

His specialty in sports is to take a motorcycle, jump over a ramp and leap through the air 90 feet.

That's what he's going to try to do today, over 15 automobiles.

You're trying 15 today?

The parachute is ready. The motorcycle is ready.

And I'm ready. I'm not gonna miss a day.

He is set to go.

He'll build up speed as quickly as he can.

Here he goes!

And makes it!

A beautiful leap as Evel Knievel gets the roar of approval of the crowd here.

Here we are at this Wide World of Sports' biggest race of the year, biggest track race of the year.

And I won it.

I won the race. You think anybody remember it?


They know Knievel.

They remember Knievel out of that. Not me.

I rode 100 laps, rode my ass off.

So Evel got his foot in the door. Now, he's gonna knock it down.

If you could think of the most outrageous thing you could do what would it be?

It would be jump the fountain at Caesar's Palace.

I don't know where it came from.

How a guy would go down Caesar's Palace strip, look at the fountains... what was he thinking?

Where did that come from?

Evel wants to do this stunt in Vegas.

But no one knows who the hell he is.

So he switches into hustler mode.

This guy called every news outlet, told them that Evel Knievel, famed stunt motorcyclist was gonna jump Caesar's Palace come Saturday morning. Be there.

So then he calls Jay Sarno, the guy who runs Caesar's.

Each time, he would call as a different person.

Each time, he would mispronounce his own name.

I told him my name was Larson, I was with Sports Illustrated.

I said "You ever heard of Evel Nievel?"

He said "Evel Nievel? Who the hell is this Evel Nievel?"

I waited two more days, called him back up and said "It's Dennis Houlan from Wide World of Sports.

"Do you know Evel Knievel?"

He says "Evel Nevel? Evel Knievel?

"Who is this crazy guy? Everyone is calling me up about him.

"I think we have a deal with him, I don't know. Call back." (Laughs)


Like a lot of his stunts Caesar's Palace was one of those that he dreamed up and sold before he even knew it was possible.

Then on the day he's got the crowds there.

He doesn't know if he can make it.

He's just got to go for it.

I talked with him for a while before he jumped.

He was very unsettled about the jump.

You could tell he was nervous.

He was making runs at the ramp.

We could hear the motorcycle. We could hear the crowd.

Then the doorman... got on the phone and told us what went on.

My god, that was horrible.

I thought he was dead.

I was horrified to watch my friend look like a rag doll.

I don't think he was unconscious.

But he was hurting.

So off to the hospital we went.

He had a broken wrist, two broken ankles, crushed his pelvis...

Then somehow, word gets out that he is in a coma and might not make it.

He told that story. But he wasn't in a coma.

I flew down there.

It hadn't been but like two days since he had the wreck and he was awake when I walked in the hospital room.

He had the press come in there and play it up - "Oh I'm about to die.

"I don't know if I'm going to make it."

This is Knievel. This is what he did.

He played it up right to the end.

Pretty soon the crash footage was everywhere.

We saw him jump Caesar's Palace.

We saw that fall and his body flopping and his head hitting... all of the agony of that and the broken bones.

That piece of film was amazing.

To see him go over and over and roll all the way up to the wall... that's one of the great pieces of footage of all time.

He was national news all over the place.

He became instantly famous.

This guy somehow captured what America needed.

He came along at the right time.

There was a certain cynicism throughout the country.

Society was changing.

You had corruption in government.

Well, I'm not a crook.

The country had been battered by many years of war.

America was coming apart at the seams.

♪ Must be the season of the witch. ♪ Must be the season of the witch.

We were a little down on ourselves.

Along comes this kid from Butte, Montana, who showed us who we were and wanted to be again.

♪ He wears red, white and blue, stars and stripes, too. ♪ I guess we were looking for some sort of a hero.

We had Superman and Batman...

But this guy was the real thing.

♪ Evel Knievel For God and country too Most motorcycle people wore black.

That is what Evel wanted to change.

That's where the red, white, and blue letters came from.

He wore red, white and blue because he was patriotic.

He loved his country.

But he also saw that it would give him a boost with his image and people were respecting him more.

He came out of those mounts in his star-spangled suit and his cane.

And he said

"I am going to face death."

He opened the door and invited people to buy a ticket to watch truth.

For that disenchanted, disillusioned generation, where you didn't trust anybody because even the president lied here's a guy... he's gonna risk everything.

He did it! Wow!

He did it! Yeah!

There was three TV stations back then.

When Evel was on ABC everyone knew it.

That's what you did that night, is watch...

That's what you talked about for the next few weeks afterwards.

He was so popular that out of the top ten-rated Wide World of Sports shows in the 37 years of the show he holds seven of them.

TV: Motorcycle daredevil, Evel Knievel!

He was the talk of the world.

He was the greatest reality show before reality shows existed.

Are you scared before a stunt?

Do you have fear?

I am not scared. When I go out for that jump I must say I have some concern but I don't think I've ever been afraid of anything.

If I know something is going to happen, I try and train myself to where I have complete control over my mind and my body.

I relax when I hit instead of freezing up and being scared.

He said to me "You know what I was really good at?

"Was the take-off.

"You know what I was bad at was the landing."

But he said that it was the bad landings that's what brought the crowds out.

Bobby used to say nobody wants to see me die but they don't want to miss it if I do.

ANNOUNCER: Just to go up that ramp and take a look at the distance that he has got to hurdle aboard his Harley Davidson machine...

He knew that if he wasn't perfect when he left that ramp, something awful was going to happen between the time he left there and came down way over here.

If he told you he was going to do something, he'd do it.

Even if he knew it was going to kill him.

You were always the question of... whether or not he might not make it alive.

I would think my dad would die every time he jumped.

It was stressful. It was hard on us.

If he crashed and got hurt then he'd go out and gonna do it again.

Everyone says "He's nuts. He got hurt the last time."

Doctors, especially surgeons, have been amazed at how I can keep going.

He had recuperative powers that were beyond normal people.

They'd say "You'll have this cast for eight weeks" and... (Laughs)

He would take it off in three.

This may look like just some abstract plumbing.

But this is actually the right hip and right femur of Evel Knievel...

I think I have probably become immune to pain.

I've learned to live with pain for so long that I think... what would hurt an average person doesn't hurt me so much.

When we were growing up and my dad broke bones and he was in pain he never bitched about it, he never complained about it.

No, no, I'll be all right. I'm gonna jump some more.

He accepted that that's what he had chosen to do.

It's something he just had to deal with.

That's the way he dealt with it.

To be something, a little extra special, no matter what I want to do, if I like to do it.

To be a champion, to be the best.

Even though I have been hurt so many times.

And live like a lot of people do, live in a... a Grey twilight world, these kind of people don't even know victory or defeat because they have never tried anything.

This is something I feel compelled to do.

And I am going to do it.

I had sort of been brought along the way of a teen idol.


I had enough star power going but I kept trying to toughen up my act.

I thought "God, if I could get a really good Western

"or a good action movie..."

I was looking for a sort of modern-day Western character, who would that be?

I remember seeing the footage from Caesar's Palace.

I thought "Yeah, that's the movie."

In my mind, there was only one guy that could do this right.

John Milius, he had written 'Dirty Harry'

'Jeremiah Johnson' and of course later 'Apocalypse Now'.

Milius just wrote it as if he was writing for 'Patton'.

It had this sort of mythic sound to it.

It has got this man who thinks he is a gladiator.

I was excited to show Evel this.

He tells me to come meet him in Hollywood at the Saharan Motel, that was up on Sunset.

He's been up all night, got another huge wound, kotex pads all in there.

He's lying there like a pasha in a bad motel.

That's when it all got crazy.

He took a bottle of the Wild Turkey and I heard the snap of the Turkey.

He drank half that thing down and he said "Siddown".

I said "We've got a great script"

"I want you to read it."

He said "You read it."

I said "Well, I have read it.

"I really love it. I think it's great."

He said "No, I want you to read it to me."

I just didn't want to read the script.

It was crazy, the idea of me reading the script to him.

But he was dead serious and I saw this gun.

He put it right to my head.

I thought he means this.

This is really real stuff.

My performance on reading that script was the best I've ever given.

I probably should've gotten an Academy Award.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have no idea how good it makes me feel to be here today.

It is truly an honour to risk my life for you, an honour.

Before I jump my motorcycle over these 19 cars and I want you to note there is not a Volkswagen or a Datsun in the row.

Evel was not happy with it, I don't believe.

From what I understand talking to him I don't believe he was at all happy with George Hamilton in that.

I don't think Evel appreciated me climbing into his leathers and getting on his motorcycle.

But what happened is, by osmosis, when he went to see it in the theatre, when he came out he was saying these things.

They were extraordinary words coming out of his mouth that John had written for him.

They told the Wright Brothers to fly was impossible and they probably told Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon was impossible.

They said that Shephard and Glenn would never get around the world.

They said that Armstrong wouldn't step on the moon.

He was using a writer's words.

This is the Evel he's become.

I'm all alone when I jump those ramps.

There's only two things that keep the rest of them from doing it, that's fear and the big hole in the middle.

As long as I can stand alone and be the best at what I am doing I am going to continue to do it.

He created a character named Evel Knievel and then he tried to live the part.

He never broke character.

He had the Evel Knievel persona.

That's what he presented to the world.

We don't want guys in Grey hats.

We want black and white.

Evel represented that.

He definitely thought of himself as the guy in the white hat - the good guy.

If I look like I'm rigging up for a trip to outer space, you are right.

Nobody should ever ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

I never do.

He was... somebody who was seeking what many of us do in our own way, that's recognition.

If you get into his background you can understand that.

He wanted identity, he needed that.

He just wanted to be loved.

♪ I wonder how you're feeling.

♪ There's ringing in my ears. ♪ Thank you very much.

It is a pleasure to be back here in Portland, Oregon.

On behalf of my sponsors, the Mack Truck Company, the Harley Davidson Motor Company and the Bucyrus-Erie Crane and Steam Shovel Company in Milwaukee...

My dad... he invented the licensing business.

How many people can you think of that had their names on products before Evel?

There was a few.

But he really elevated the art of the licensing business.

He had to deal with everyone, Mac Truck, Harley Davidson...

But that's not the one I remember.

TV: This is Evel Knievel and his stunt cycle.

He's the only rider to do so many stunts... Mid-air somersaults!

Evel Knievel has become a legend in his own lifetime.

When Ideal came out with the Evel Knievel toy the president of Ideal called me aside and said

"This is going to be a really big item for us."

TV: It's the Evel Knievel rally.

For me, there was only one action figure when I was growing up and that was Evel Knievel.

It was as cool as you could possibly get at the time.

It came with the motorcycle you could wind up.

You wind it up and stop... and it takes off You wind it up and keep building this suspense.

You don't know what is going to happen but you know its gonna blow up and it's not going to be pretty.

But you're lucky that this toy is Evel Knievel because he can take it.

That's awesome!

Wow... Go Evel!

TV: The Evel Knievel stunt cycle comes with figure, winder, GT wheelie stand and front flip bar.

New from Ideal.

The toy sold out.

I would say he made more money off of Ideal Toy than he did off any of his jumps.

I was with him one time, he showed me two royalty cheques.

Both of them were for at that time half a million dollars each.

Both of them! Two cheques!

I told him "Well, you made it. You're on the pinnacle.

"You said you were gonna be a millionaire.

"You are a millionaire."

It was an amazing time.

The money was rolling in by the millions.

Everywhere he went he went first class.

Yeah, my dad liked to spend money.

All of a sudden, there's five Ferraris, two Learjets, five other airplanes.

He'd get a boat. He'd need a bigger boat.

How about a yacht? How about another yacht.

With helicopters on top. (Laughs)

He had Evel Eye I painted on the side of it.

He's no easy rider.

He's proud of the material things his money can buy.

His Cadillacs, his 140,000-dollar luxury-appointed van...

He took me into his office and opened up a huge safe.

And there was a gold plated full-sized motorcycle!

But you know what?

You could hardly see it because it was covered in cash like it had been thrown in there like confetti.

He built a big beautiful home on the 18th green with this huge iron gate with a great big E K right in the middle of it, it was the actual handle.

For Butte, Montana, that was the stuff.

If I'm risking my life for it I'm gonna spend every damn dime of it!

Yeah, my dad had an affinity for clothes.

He liked to dress with flair.

When he would walk into a store and see a sweater that he liked he would buy one in twenty colours.

Come on with me, I'll take you on a tour of my office and my dressing room and show you what you can buy with a few dollars if you are willing to jump a motorcycle over 19 cars.

Evel was very flashy.

He walked with a cane with diamonds.

His jewellery had diamonds and he had gold all over.

He always loved Elvis.

They traded the belt buckle and the key.

My dad was a big fan of Liberace for being a showman.

All the money in the world can't buy your way into heaven.

It can't buy your way out of hell.

It was made to be spent right here.

I'm gonna have the best clothes, best boots, best diamonds, best cars, trucks, motorcycles, booze and women on the face of this earth just as long as I can keep going.

When he came into money and fame and fortune it's like women became almost an equal part of his thrust from day to day.

Part of it was that women were extraordinarily attracted to him.

I know because he and I would go out drinking and, hell, they'd line up.

He'd pick the prettiest one.

He's unbelievable.

He's got more fire in him. He's unbelievable.

He'd turn the hat trick half the time because I'd see him do three a night for a week while I was there.

Hang on.

Come on, back in the seventies every woman wanted somebody like that.

I was always mad because he was maybe cheating on my mom.

♪ I'm the other woman...

Linda was Aces. Aces.

She was the nicest woman that he could've ever married.

She stood by him and a lot of times he didn't treat her right.

Hey, good looking. You going swimming again?

He didn't hide anything.

That's probably where I get a little upset with him.

He'd come home with a little lipstick on his collar.

I'd get a little ticked off.

I'd like to take you out to dinner somewhere in a real nice quiet little spot, get you swacked and take you home some place.


I think "I married this guy!"

I don't know, I just... (Sighs)

You just don't leave that man unless he wants you to. (Laughs)

Let's say I died and landed in heaven.

I'm there, okay?

I'm sitting there in a white robe on a hard marble slab next to JFK, Martin Luther King and some poet, what the hell would Evel Knievel have to say to any of those guys?

I couldn't carry on an intelligent conversation with them.

I want to go to my own kind of heaven...

It's got draft beer that doesn't make you fat, it's got a lot of beautiful girls like you running around and my wife won't get mad if I go out with them.

He was okay before he became Evel Knievel and then...

People just can't handle that fame. Some of them.

He's... a small town guy from a small town.

And he, in... really in the span of seven years became one of the most famous people in the world.

I think that he... he forgot how to be Bob.

When he became Evel it's like the world took him away from us.

If you want to be in this business, be the best in the world and wear a red, white and blue Number One on your back you have to be man enough to handle the consequences.

ANNOUNCER: King of the daredevil, number one, Evel Knievel!

Evel was on top of the world but he was starting to lose his grip a little.

That thing with the Hell's Angels didn't help.

Evel was at odds against the Hell's Angels and the biker image.

He used to talk about the Hell's Angels a lot, always putting them down.

They're murderers, thieves, or drug dealers...

I mean these guys are dogs.

They belong in penitentiaries.

He must of got through to them. They got pissed off.

San Francisco was one of their main areas.

The announcer was the guy that started the whole thing when he introduced Knievel he said

"If Knievel makes this jump tonight

"he's going to set the Hell's Angels back 100 years."

Wrong thing to say.

He barely made that jump, came back around, and I noticed... a couple of Hell's Angels have come out onto the floor.

This Hell's Angel grabbed him - well, I'm... I'm hoofing it.

The Hell's Angel threw him down.

Just when I got there.

I give this guy a body check and he folded like... just went out.

Well, then the war started.

Hell's Angels come bowling over there.

The people come out of the stands and started beating on them.

They put two of those Hell's Angels in the hospital.

After the Cow Palace incident Evel got a little bit paranoid.

He said "Do you have a gun?"

I said "Yeah, I got a couple of them."

He says "Those Hell's Angels, you didn't know, they're gonna walk in here with a shotgun."

And he says "I got to be ready for them."

The man had crashed numerous times.

Of course, it's gonna add up mentally and emotionally in your head.

It has to.

ANNOUNCER: Watch that right shoulder.

Broken right there, the right collar bone.

INTERVIEWER: Are you afraid?

If I am, I'm not gonna tell you about it.

Why? I've been concerned.

I'm Evel Knievel, honey. I'm not supposed to be afraid.

He was constantly being tormented with the thought of...

You're not gonna make this one. You're gonna die at this one.

So he is doing everything he can through alcohol, through being flamboyant, through being... crude or whatever to get these thoughts out of his head.

But they were eating his lunch.

Evel, you're shaking a little bit.

Well, if you did what I did you'd be shaking, too.

I could see it in his eyes sometimes when he'd come back by to ask me if he was going fast enough.

I could see the fear in his eyes.

I knew he was scared, but... he would never say no.

He'd go ahead and do it.

The medicine that he was taking, the drugs he was taking for his pain plus he was drinking he became just schizo... I mean, paranoid.

He got paranoid about protecting his stuff, paranoid about who he let in.

We'd be talking and almost as if he was schizophrenic he'd flip and become ugly about things.

I had to stand two guys down, who wanted a piece of him.

They wanted a piece of him because he was being an asshole, he was being a jerk.

I'm the guy who's just trying to keep the peace.

I'm the guy protecting the troublemaker from the good guys.

You know, and I thought I can't do this.

It's really interesting when you are a man like Evel Knievel and you've created this myth.

Once you're defined it's hard to live up to it.

He was always reselling what he had already sold.

How do you get any better than that? How do you get any bigger?

Throughout his life he was insatiable.

Even when he was the most famous daredevil that ever lived he wasn't satisfied.

He had to make another half a million dollars on a jump.

He had to find one more woman prettier than the last.

He couldn't satisfy himself.

He had to do something else.

He had a friend and they were at the bar, talking.

This fella just made a comment "What's your next thing?"

I think he said "The Grand Canyon?"

Of course that started wheels turning.

One of the favourite pictures of my dad is he is on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

There's these two Navajo Chiefs there.

My dad is pointing at the other side of the Grand Canyon and they're just looking at him like this man is crazy.

My dream was to jump the Grand Canyon.

The Secretary of Interior told me that I could.

I took his word for it.

Then he changed his mind.

So I told him to go get hosed and I bought my own canyon, Snake River Canyon, State of Idaho.

The only way they will get me out of the air is to shoot me out with an anti-aircraft gun because I am gonna go. Believe me.

The jump across the canyon will be approximately a mile.

It's somewhere between 1000 and 1500 feet to the bottom.

As you can see, Pete, this motorcycle is unlike any motorcycle you've ever seen in this world.

These rockets put out about 90 pounds of thrust apiece.

Knievel's original concept was to take a motorcycle, put a rocket on it.

And that's impossible.

The necessity required that he make a rocket vehicle.

Our partner was Bob Treaux.

He was known as the father of steam rocketry.

That was our answer for getting Evel Knievel over the canyon.

Basically, building a hot water tank and uncorking it and let it go.

This machine is powered by steam.

Steam is the most reliable source of power we have in the world.

It'll go from zero to 350 miles per hour from a dead stop in eight seconds flat.

This super stunt billed as the death defying event of the century will be viewed by almost two million people most of them watching on closed circuit movie screens.

I'd like to say to you what Evel Knievel says wherever he goes, whatever he signs.

If he were talking to you right now he'd say "Hey Jim, happy landings."

When there was an event of any magnitude during that period I'd probably get the first call to do the promotion.

I remember the first time I saw Evel Knievel he showed up on Ventura Boulevard doing wheelies on his motorcycle.

That's when I first met him.

But I really didn't know him until we did the Snake River Canyon Jump.

I had control of the publicity and promotion.

For a brief moment of our dull mundane life here is a man who vicariously we can live through.

I thought what he was doing was exciting.

It's never hard to sell something you believe in.

And I believed in it.

We did a 30-day tour, which was my idea, to do press conferences at, like literally, 90 airports.

ANNOUNCER: When Knievel flies into town each day on his two Learjets his pilot Whacha Macallum and his co-pilot wear crimson crushed velvet dinner jackets.

You ought to see our socks and underwear.

Every day was a... party.

There were close to 2500 press credentials given out.

It was bigger than any Ali fight. And I did them all.

Bigger than a presidential entourage.

Don E Branco was in charge of all the logistics.

I was a concert promoter.

I did acts like The Stones, The Doors, The Who...

Then Evel comes along with a pay per view closed circuit - this was the biggest event of its kind in the history of entertainment.

The unknowns were magnificent.

This Sunday a daredevil hustler named Evel Knievel will try to cross a canyon in Idaho riding a rocket.

If he makes it he will be many times a millionaire.

If he doesn't, he'll be dead.

He was a hero of mine in many ways.

I was a little crazy. He was a whole lot crazy.

You just had to dig his courage.

It just didn't seem to me that courage would be enough.

(Laughs) Chucky...

It looks a lot further than I thought a mile would look.

It was the kind of stunt where you would actually see probably a man kill himself.

It was so audacious. It was so daring.

It was so almost impossible in many ways but for his confidence.

What about the G-forces?

When you start something that is going to be going 350 miles per hour aren't you gonna be knocked out?

Yes, but I'll wake up, see the other side of the ground way over there or wherever the hell I'm at and I'll pull a rip cord and open a parachute beyond that sky sight.

You're going to be unconscious while you're up in the air?

To 2000 feet, I probably will be, yes.

You have to regain your consciousness.

That's right but I can do that. I'll do it.

Evel had no training.

He had no training for pulling Gs like a centrifuge or even in an airplane.

Zero parachute experience.

He had a dead-stick kind of thing that was spring loaded.

If he passed out and let go of the handle the parachute would come out.


NEWSREADER: There were three of the steam-powered skycycles built.

The original called the X1 was tested without a pilot about three weeks ago.

It ended up at the bottom of the canyon.

That was a test shot. We made some mistakes.

If I'd been in it I'd've ended up dead.

But I don't think that's going to happen.

What the press did not know was that the first one was designed to fail.

We purposely underpowered the rocket so it wouldn't make it to the other side.

He wanted it as a promotional thing.

He wanted it to crash in the water and let people see that.

Eventually we did convince Evel to do a real test.

But he'd only do it if it was done in secret.

So the press wouldn't get any pictures of it or anything.

We thought it would make it.

But there was a problem with the parachute.

It deployed early.

It also landed right in the middle of the river.

Knievel was there to see that.

I saw it.

I was wondering at that time what was going through his mind.

I was thinking to myself that he maybe was looking at his mortality and thinking... this may not be such a good idea.

However, give him credit, he was going through with it.

At this point we're batting zero for two.

And the world is watching us. I mean, I felt that.

CROWD: You'll make it!

You will! You will!

He became more and more surly.

Screeching orders at everybody that he could.

He belittled little people. He was just mean.

About a week out is when we started sensing things not going our way with the press because the press is up here living now.

The press started seeing the real Evel.

Do one thing. For me.

I do not ask for your respect. I demand it.

Shelly gathered everybody around Evel's trailer.

And said "Why don't you have him stand up so we can see him?"

Because there was a big crowd of people there.

Evel heard that and came out and...

I said "Have a smile on your face." I don't smile at anybody.

Alright, get him out. Get him out! Out!

Go on get out of here!

That's when he came down the stairs with his cane.

He grabbed my camera. He's a pretty strong guy.

Grabbed my camera and started pushing me back and whacking me and the camera with his cane.

Are you going to apologize to that cameraman for roughing him up?

I wouldn't apologize. And if I see the son of a bitch again I'll throw him out of here. How's that?

As hard as we tried a lot of Evel's true temperament came out to the press.

I think you should apologize. I want to straighten you out.

Number one, I was in the skycycle all day.

Number two, you were a guest in my press area.

Understand that? And so was he.

Number three, when I've been up there all day and the blood's come out of my legs and my feet and gone to my head and I come down and want to get some rest and get along with you people You don't tell me to come out and stand up and smile.

If I want to come out and try and get along with you you should at least allow me to sit down and smile.

So tell him I said to kiss my ass!

There was a point where we were all sitting around and saying

"This guy's a jerk. He's just a jerk!

"He's a bully, he's a bore...

"What are we doing here?"

The rest of the press can now thank you because I'm going to leave.

How's that, boys?

People started coming in and it started getting crazy.

Every biker in the United States that didn't have a job was there.

You'd have umpteen different motorcycling groups, none of which you'd invite to your house for dinner.

They're having a good time. Everyone gets loose around here.

You could say it was like a Woodstock but the evil twin of Woodstock.

It was like, not a happy... flower children sitting around in the rain.

Those guys were... they were really rough.

Wackos with tattoos all over their bodies drinking beer and screwing in public and all kinds of...

It was bedlam.

Roach clips! Reefers! Hash pipes!

Come get them while they're hot!

They had a marching band from Butte High School that was there.

It was... not a place for a B High marching band to be that day.

I'd have to say.

Right when we pulled in there was a man and woman naked having sex right there under a tree.

I saw all the people that were drinking, smoking pot and...

They were pretty wild.


We fired up the band.

It's like the whole place arose.

Oh they... the crowd went wild.

Yeah, absolutely.

They were totally prepared for a celebration.

The crowd just started mingling and wanted to play our instruments.

They tugged and pulled.

Next thing we know we're separated a good 100 yards away from the rest of the band.

So we were basically fighting for our lives as far as I was concerned.

At that point, they just stuffed my tuba full of everything, beer bottles, popcorn, peanuts, rocks...

I pulled a bra out of there...

I never played a note.

We also had with us the drill team.

The drill team, their name was the Purple Bees.

A good friend of mine, they tore her dress right off.

They totally tore her dress off.

I guess we all thought of this as something different than it was really gonna be.

The crowd were given beer.

When the beer was closed up, that's when it got kind of rowdy.

They actually rolled the beer trucks over, the semis over on their side, shot the locks off and everyone was walking through the camps with cases of beer.

Next thing you know they took the outhouses.

They took them down, started dumping them over and they lit them on fire.

The place was absolutely out of control at that point.

Things got as bad as it could get bad without somebody dying.

That's as simple as that. Just as bad as it could be.

I can hear out in the darkness...

I can hear the girls being raped. I can hear fights going on.

I can hear gunshots going off.

There was nothing I could do.

Finally, I reach the point where I said "I'm gonna call the National Guard in."

I called them up and he says "Don, I'm sorry.

"Our men are split up. I can't come out there and help you.

"You're on your own, son."

I hung up that phone and I felt like crying.

ANNOUNCER: There were more than 33,000 paid admissions.

As you can see they needed control.

They were perilously close to the edge of the canyon, some 600 feet straight down.

What I was concerned about is that there was this canyon.

This killer canyon in front of you and they put up a standard cyclone fence.

I mean, You'd just push it and it'd fall over.

I thought to myself

"Everybody's gonna rush to that edge of the canyon

"to see what happens."

You're gonna have people pushing from behind.

Like the lemmings in the sea they're gonna go right over the edge.

(Laughs) I thought it was pretty ironic that Donny solved the security problem.

He went down to where the Hell's Angels were camped and hired them to come up and provide security for us.

I went there and explained what I'll do.

"I've got 1000 dollars in cash.

"I want you to guard the fence

"and keep people on that side of the fence."

The guys said "Are you bull-shitting me?"

I said "Am I gonna bull-shit with you guys here?"

"Okay, you got a deal, mister." (Laughs)


On the morning of the jump I looked at him and I saw a very pensive, very reflective, very quiet man.

He didn't look comfortable.

I don't know why he would look comfortable climbing into a tin can to fly over a canyon.

ANNOUNCER: There is Bob Treaux himself, the chief engineer, testing the wind.

The 50-mile-an-hour wind was not the right direction.

We recommended to Knievel that he delay the launch.

I says "Bob, I don't think you ought to do it."

I think this is crazy.

I think this thing isn't gonna make it.

He says "I can't back out now. Too much has been said.

"They'd call me a coward" he says. "I'm not gonna do that.

"I'm going and that's it."

I've got a team behind me with Mr. Treuax.

And all the boys that are 100 percent and...

I think we'll do it.

I wish the wind wasn't blowing so hard but I think we'll do it.

There was no braggadocio.

There was no bravado.

As the time counted off he said to his family "Lets pray."

Yeah, I remember when my dad brought me in the trailer

and the truck... (Sniffs)

The whole family... and he hugged me and says "I love you."

He didn't know what was gonna happen.

He was like "God, take care of me."

Linda and the children were crying.

Specially, the little girl.

Yeah, that was a very sobering moment.

Suddenly, I realized...

"Have I had a hand in getting a man killed?"

ANNOUNCER: There he goes up the ramp towards the launch site and towards the vehicle.

He's being introduced to the crowd now.

I've never been afraid in my life of dying.

I think a man was put on this earth to live.

Not just to exist.

Today is the proudest day of my life.

I'm living a dream they thought could never be done but it'll be done.

WHISTLES AND CLAPPING And then... instead of a roar a silence, an eerie silence fell over the crowd because this guy truly might be going to his death.


Evel got out of the crane and into the skycycle.

The whole time patriotic music is being played and at that time even I got emotional a bit.

Fecundo and I strapped him in, and got a couple of pictures of him in the cockpit.

He looked a lot different than he did when we started this project.

His hair was Grey and he was real serious.

We had a big clock.

Ten seconds... nine seconds... eight, seven... you look at the audience, no one is even breathing.

Five... four...

ANNOUNCER: Three, two, one...

Immediately, something failed.

It fizzled.

It went down like a bullet.

ANNOUNCER: There's fire. The main shute's out.

There she goes.

It's going to crash.

Just missed the rocks, thank god!

David, I can't see anything.

I had my camera. I was taking click click click...

Chhhhhh... right into the canyon.

I turn around and the first fence just goes flat, shwoop!

It was a stampede. That's exactly what it was.

I saw bikers pluck people out of the sky.

It was right out of a movie.

ANNOUNCER: Robert Craig Knievel has appeared to have landed in the Snake River.

Evel definitely tried to get out but he couldn't.

David, I am very scared.

I thought he was gone.

"They're not gonna get to him in time. He's gonna drown."

There was people running up looking over the edge.

Linda was scared and the boys were scared.

I thought my dad was dead.

I was screaming, crying.

I got into my helicopter, got over the canyon, and there... from the muddy banks on the side of the river... was Evel waving.

I said this:

"Thank god, that son of a bitch is alive."

ANNOUNCER: Evel Knievel is standing in the boat and waving.

He is alive and well.

I know the well-wishers are anxious...

Walking towards that helicopter...

He's on the ground now and he's being mobbed by the crowd.

What happened, Evel? I don't know what happened.

It's just... I think... Evel?

I don't know. I just can't say.

I'll have to let Bob and the fellas examine it.

Bob, what happened?

Well, this right here is the cover to the parachute canister.

It obviously came loose much too soon right on the pad.

What happened was that... it went up and I knew immediately the chute had been deployed.

It came off because of a mechanical problem with the design.

You didn't do a damn thing.

The can is still on the thing.

It blew up right there on the launch.

Blew up by accident? Yeah, it was our fault.

That's what has been determined? Its not your fault.

It's the canister's fault. We should have run one more test.

It was clear to me, or to us that it was a mechanical failure.

But there was another story being banded about back at the press tent that perhaps, Evel had released the chute early.

I told people that that's what happened.

When I went to the press tent after the jump the press was asking for me to make a statement.

I told the press that his hand came off of the bar.

I really liked the rocket crew. They were a bunch of nice guys.

I knew that the MO... of how he treated people.

Nothing was ever his fault.

I told people that that's what happened.

If by chance that took a little bit of pressure off of the rocket team so be it.

So it got out that it was Evel's fault.

But the nagging question remains...

Was this the legitimate attempt of a brave man or was it the great rip-off of 1974?

Then, the press tore him up.

Cause they think that he, along with me, had perpetrated a fraud.

Hero or hustler?

Or for Americans, are those the same thing?

It was Evel Knievel against the Snake River Canyon and the canyon was the sentimental favourite.

Evel would have liked his jump to be huge front page news.

But it was overwhelmingly squashed by the big news of the day, which was the pardon of Nixon by President Ford.

That was a major transition in the country.

Maybe... maybe he had outlived his novelty because I think people might of gotten tired of listening to it.

And that's when he came back to Butte.

He was... I don't know if he was depressed or what.

(Sighs) He just...

I thought sure he's just give up after that and say "Well, I'm done."


♪ England swings like a pendulum do... ♪ He had never been to England before.

He thought "A new crowd, a new group, "I can snow them a little more than I can the Americans.

Yeah, they hadn't heard the Teddy Roosevelt speech...

"Be good to your parents, wear a helmet..."

ANNOUNCER: Evel Knievel is alive, well, and back in action in the famed old Wembley Stadium in London, England for a jump that will be made over thirteen London buses.

When he arrived in London he had only sold 3,000 seats for a 100,000 seat stadium and he was in trouble.

There was some press there to meet him.

He looks at the press and what did he do?

"I'm so glad to be here in England

"where we came and won the war for you."

("English" accent) Oh? And they start writing.

He knew his job, which was to get people in Wembley Stadium.

We drove around London just making friends.

How you doing? What's your name? Stephen...

ANNOUNCER: So the Yankee pied piper collected the young and the old and led them all to Wembley Stadium.

80,000 people showed up to watch the man do it.

So we walked into the arena of Wembley, where the buses were lined up.

He said "I can't do that."

"What do you mean, you can't do that?"

I said "Pull a few buses out of there.

"Come on. It won't hurt a thing to do that."

I go over and grab our producer.

I said "Doug, Evel says he can't do that."

He really didn't think he was going to make it.

I went over to talk to Evel, talk him out of it.

He was in a trailer and I knocked on the door.

He said "Ah no, I'll give it a go. I'll give it a go."

He's always "I'll give it a go."

He was right. He couldn't make it.

ANNOUNCER: Here's Evel Knievel!

Evel, one has to wonder after Snake River one has to wonder why you continue?


I... sometimes think that maybe I should quit but you always want to keep going and...

I'm proud of that red, white and blue Number One I wear on my shoulder.

I want to keep it on. I'm glad you're here today.

I've never had an accident while you're around.

Good luck. Thank you, Frank.

Well, he told me earlier outside of the jump at Caesar's Palace where he was severely injured this will probably be the most difficult jump he has ever made.

Hurt himself in Indio in 1967, Caesar's Palace...

Will he go? And he will go.


It was almost eerie though.

The motorcycle was ghostly.

It was tumbling after him.

Then, eventually, it landed on him.

He's down and he is hurt.

Oh my god!

The man you see leaning over him that is John Hood, his chief mechanic.

I knew he's got to be hurt on this one.

I kneeled down and said "Are you okay?"

I got his helmet off and he said "Help me up."

And he wanted the microphone.

I want to stand up. Help me up.

He wants to talk. He's gonna talk.

Ladies and gentlemen... of this wonderful country...

I've got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump because I will never, ever, ever jump again. I'm through.

That crash was one of the worst as far as injuries would go.

He broke his hand, back... re-broke his pelvis.

After Wembley, I went home to edit. Phone rang.

"Hello Doug, Evel..."

He's calling me from his hospital room in London.

"Doug, you can't use that quote."

"What do you mean, Evel?"

"You can't use that quote.

"Where I said I wouldn't jump again."

I said "Oh, why?"

"Because I may jump again!"

When the jump was over in London I said that I would never jump again.

That was the pain in my body overpowering the brains I'm supposed to have in my head.

I will jump again.

But 13 is an unlucky number.

This time I'm gonna jump 14 buses.

Somehow he gets the idea "I'm not gonna go out with a crash.

"I'm gonna go back to the United States

"and I'm gonna jump 14 buses."

That's just who he was.

You can't do it, say you're the best in the world and fall off and get up and say "I quit."

Not if you're an Evel Knievel, you can't.

TV: The Kings Island Family entertainment centre located just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, is jam-packed with people, who have come to watch Evel Knievel out of retirement.

Here he comes right now. Robert Craig Knievel.

A lot was riding on this jump.

It was a different Evel.

I mean he actually did practice jumps.

I'm gonna go, Frank.

There's no wind gonna stop me, not even a hurricane.

It was a very gutsy jump.

The doctors told him "Don't ever do that again."

One little slip, wrong thing and he'd probably be paralysed.

ANNOUNCER: Total concentration now... getting the bike off the approach ramp and onto the landing ramp...

...and he's not hesitating, he'll go...

Busted the motorcycle right in half, Frank.

Boy, it did come apart, didn't it?

It wasn't an idea of mine. I know.

Thank you.

This motorcycle is the finest machine in the world as far as I am concerned.

It broke in half but it held me up.

All I can say is thanks to Number One, thanks to Harley Davidson you've been so good to me through the years.

I would like to tell all of you something though.

As far as I am concerned I have jumped far enough.

Today I am going to walk away from here with you.

I feel like being a professional, that's what I'm gonna do.

Kings Island was the longest jump of his career.

It was the biggest television audience he ever had.

It was the highest rated episode of Wide World of Sports ever.

He did some small jumps after that but he never went that big again.

Kings Island was... the gunfighter putting away his pistols.

If you're on a bike you'd do stupid shit.

But you'd do stupid shit in the name of Evel Knievel.

I thought that's why you had a bike.

I didn't know you just rode bikes around.

I thought the whole purpose of bikes were to hit things and fly off of them.

We'd line up the neighbour kids and see who could jump more neighbours without landing on them and things like that.

But we just dreamed of having a motor between our legs.

I loved just going down steps.

I crashed all the time.

Like, yeah, you're gonna be like Evel Knievel, but not as good.

There's no way that a youngster is not going to want to try to do what his hero does.

I don't think there is anything wrong with a kid wanting to be an Evel Knievel any more than wanting to be an OJ Simpson or Frank Gifford, any kind of a professional athlete.

Do you view him as a hero? Yeah.

Yeah, he's one of the greatest heroes.

He was a hero to so many kids.

But his own son was his biggest fan.

This is Robbie. Look at the little guy go.

Wouldn't you know it would be the young one that would steal it.

He's the one that has got to have the longest wheelie.

He totally saw me in him.

It was like, I'm gonna be you, Dad.

And the legend continues.

I'm gonna jump the fountains at Caesar's Palace before I end my career.

That was for you, Dad.

Yeah, Robbie broke all of his dad's records.

Hell, he could jump 14 buses with no hands!

But Robbie was jumping on lighter more powerful bikes that were designed for jumping.

He could jump farther and longer than Evel.

But it didn't matter.

Robbie couldn't tell a story.

He was... he was not a showman.

Knievel was the ultimate showman.

A guy could sing longer and louder than Elvis Presley.

But who gave a damn?

He was Elvis Presley.

My dad was Evel Knievel.

AUDIENCE LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE Even when Bobbie wasn't jumping anymore he still wanted to be in the spotlight.

He had to find other things to do to get himself attention.

One of his projects was Hollywood.

♪ Viva, viva, Knievel...

In the end, there was one guy that was meant to be Evel Knievel.

And that was Evel.

Evel had a movie star quality about him.

There's no doubt about it.

Not when he tried to act.

Look at you. You're trying to destroy yourself.

If you don't believe me here's the proof.

I'm not gonna let you commit suicide around me.

He performed for the audience.

But when it came to the acting part I guess there's a difference.

That was too far! Stop it!

Alright... Stop it!

Any way you want it, man! Stop it!

Once it came out, yeah it was a movie that wasn't really well received.

♪ Viva...

I guess the exciting part is the jump, huh.

We've got the Melindas on the high wire and the medallists on the edge of the canyon on a motorcycle...

When I knew I was gonna take on the Snake River Canyon event I decided something very important... that I would write a book.

In legacy, that people could read about the Evel Knievel promotion of the Snake River Canyon.

Knievel was my fifty-fifty partner and he says

"Don't forget, just tell the truth."

So with permission I carried an audio cassette recorder during the Evel Knievel tour.

If you listen to the tape you can form your own opinion.

And so when I wrote my book I kept out a lot of things, stuff that I would never write about cause, remember, when the book was coming out I was still protecting his image.

Evel's attorney, he checked everything.

Told me that it had Evel's approval in writing.

Then the book was published.

I was at Evel's compound one day.

He throws me this book.

He says "Here keep this. It'll be worth some money someday."

I open it up.

Here's all his footnotes in there.

The first part of the book, X-rated Evel.

He writes in there "Constitutes adultery."

Right from the get go you could tell he was mad.

It just starts and you can tell that the farther it gets in the book the madder he got.

"This is a lie and not accurate.

"Lies... lies... lies."

I read the book and said

"Yeah... what's the problem?"

"He could've said a lot more worse stuff."

I read the book a couple times.

I didn't see anything in it bad. Nothing.

It was very factual. Very, very, very factual.

I think that Shelly, who wrote it, was accurate.

And... it made him really mad.

I was on the 20th Century Fox lot.

All of a sudden I saw Evel with a big smile coming at me loping along.

I was actually glad to see him. The book was out.

I was like maybe I can even talk him into doing some promotion with me.

I said "Hey, Evel."

And all of a sudden, my hands... they were held behind my back.

They tell me it was two men.

It may have been one. It may have been two.

And he... He came at me with a bat... an aluminium baseball bat.

He said "I'm gonna kill you, you son of a bitch."

I did everything I could to defend myself.

I remember putting my hand up and said "What are you doing? What are you doing?"

I was fighting for my life.

He was whaling on me and then I passed out.

NEWS: Knievel came to court accompanied by his wife Linda and his attorney.

The 38-year-old daredevil faces charges of felony assault in the baseball bat attack on television executive Sheldon Saltman.

Knievel could have gotten away with it.

He could've if he'd just stopped being Knievel for ten minutes.

It was a very interesting hour at Division 91 on Municipal Court, in which Evel Knievel fired his attorney and entered a plea of guilty.

He fires them and says to the judge

"Judge, I did it and I'd do it again.

"Do what you will with me."

You know, this old frontier justice thing.

In Butte, Montana, you settle things out in the street.

You don't settle them with lawyers.

Evel always settled it with his fists or sometimes a tool helped.

Not with a baseball bat.

That's not Butte.

I never knew of anybody in Butte that did that.

If I did not think there was a much stronger judge someday that I will stand before called God than the judge I stood before in that courtroom in Santa Monica, California I would have killed that lousy little bastard.

I broke his arms with a baseball bat, which is what I think he deserved.

I'll guarantee you one thing, he doesn't write anything else about me.


I think I was a sophomore in high school at the time.

I was not proud of my dad for doing that... at all.

Stuntman Evel Knievel got a jail sentence yesterday for beating his former press agent with a baseball bat.

NEWS: The judge told the 39-year-old motorcycle daredevil that while, as a judge, he found Knievel's admission of guilt as refreshing at the same time, Rafiti said, long ago we abandoned frontier justice in California.

With that Rafiti sentenced Knievel to six months in jail and three years probation.

The judge is a good judge and he's a fair judge.

Of course when he was in jail... it was like, I think in his own way... he played it as a game.

So he's in jail but he's on work release.

So he's only in there at night.

He would have his chauffeur pick him up every morning and take him to the bar.

NEWS: Knievel believes in sharing the wealth.

So this morning he hired a dozen limousines to transport his fellow work-release inmates to their jobs.

Putting him in jail, he got more press... than anything else.

There was no end to the shenanigans that guy would pull.

NEWS: The inmates were amazed.

But the authorities were not so enthusiastic.

Well, the judge got pissed.

He revoked Evel's work-release privileges.

I was pissed off at him.

He started believing the hype that he was totally impervious, that he could get away with anything.

I don't think he thought about the public.

Maybe if he did, he thought that's what they expect of me.

The Ideal Toy company, which manufactures the Evel Knievel toys, says it has already lost 1.6 million dollars since Evel Knievel went into the county jail.

We had a meeting at Ideal the next day or the day after.

(Sighs) I said, you know...

We don't sell toys of murderers... or gangsters, or stuff like that.

And, so therefore, we are going to suspend sales in the United States.

NEWS: On the toy front it may not be a merry Christmas for daredevil Evel Knievel.

The contracts were cancelled.

He lost a lot of money. Yep.

It all started coming apart.

♪ Anymore it doesn't matter...

NEWS: Knievel says his experience in jail was a good one.

But it has set him back financially.

I hated to see him lose everything he worked for... in ten minutes.

When it was falling apart it fell apart very quickly.

The cars, the boats...

The Learjets, Ferraris, everything to go down the drain...

That was hard.

The house that we all loved got repossessed because my dad didn't pay the property taxes.

The bank came and got it. The IRS sold it.

We loaded up all the furniture, everything of any value, from the saddles to guns...

We would just bring so much out at a time.

We'd have a garage sale.

The arc of the skycycle is like what happened to his career.

He was at the pinnacle.

Then he destroyed his whole life.

I just dropped out of site and played golf.

I just completely withdrew from the public.

When I met him he was at a bit of a low point...

He was kinda just getting by... hustling golf... he might make a couple hundred here, a couple hundred there.

He lived day to day at that time.

He didn't keep the fact that he was married a secret or anything.

In two weeks, I packed up what I wanted to take with me and we went on the road.

I just let it go at that.

The heck with it, you know.

After 38 years of somebody telling you what to do.

I didn't like him...

I didn't like him.

♪ Nobody wins.

You could see that his health was declining.

He was getting worse all the time.

He had a hip replacement, a pelvis reconstruction, a spinal fusion, a liver transplant... seven or eight bouts of staph infection.

I have hepatitis C and I got it through blood transfusion.

My doctors told me five years ago that I didn't have five years to live.

I'm taking it one day at a time.

I really felt sorry for him. I did, really.

I said "You're really hurting."

♪ If you're gonna be dumb you gotta be tough When you get knocked down you gotta get back up I ain't the sharpest knife in the drawer But I know enough to know If you're gonna be dumb you gotta be tough Then the 90s come around.

Motorcycle jumping was just one part of this whole new huge thing called action sports.

Its amazing how quickly the sport's progressed.

This multimillion motorcycle jumping, skateboard riding, surfing industry has definitely come a long way from daredevils to professionals.

In 2006, I was able to land the first double backflip on a dirt bike.

No one ever thought that was possible.

The bikes have evolved. The riding has evolved.

They have coaches, schools, camps.

But the spirit will never die.

Evel was the one that set our foundation for the future.

The thing about the Knievels that's really captivating inspiring to all of us is the showmanship side of it.

I stay awake at night and I dwell on how to do what I do in the biggest and grandest way and continue this legacy.

Fire! That's deadly! Oooh!

The extreme sports or action sports, whatever it's commercially referred to, is definitely a result of the way Evel dreamed in the 70s and how he wanted to push the limits.

You can do stunts on television?

Evel had to make his jumps.

The stunts I do I know they are gonna fail.

Mat Hoffman and I did a tribute to Evel.

Hello, I'm Johnny Knoxville and I'm about to back-flip this bike.

I think we should push the limits, get some of our friends together, set some records and just celebrate Evel's life.

So we did.


I broke my dick... in that tribute.

Oww... oww... You okay?

Oh, yeah, I feel great.

No really... I tore my urethra.

Thanks a lot, Evel.

Yeah, I've definitely been compared to Evel Knievel.

I think that is because of the fact that I have had some big crashes.

I figured I'd see how far I can fly the Harley Davidson in honour of Evel Knievel.

When Seth Enslow did that record-breaking Harley Davidson jump he dedicated it to Evel.

When Robbie Madision set the world record for distance bike jumping over an entire football field he did it on the 40th anniversary of Evel's Caesar's Palace jump.

Evel Knievel was always in the back of my mind.

It wasn't like we had forgotten about him.

We didn't really know what he was up to.

People started asking what he was up to.

ANNOUNCER: The one and only OG... Evel Knievel!

It was great to see a new generation understand how important he was to us.

Somehow we raised his profile again but he deserved that all along.

He greatly appreciated that the kids paid their respects to him.

They did. And he was amazed by that.

Don't ever forget, you can fall many times in life.

But you will never be a failure as long as you try and get up.

I think my dad liked his role as an elder statesman at the end of his life.

He thought it was really cool.

And where he deserved to be. Deservedly so.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens in the next 20 years if I'm so lucky to live that long.

I've had to have a hip replacement, a complete hip replacement.

I had to have a...

Guys, I'm really having problems.

Why don't we...


After a lifetime of injuries and surgeries the thing that really kicked his ass was lung disease.

If you'd asked him

"Would you rather have lived this long, Bobby and been this sick

"or died at the end of the ramp?"

I think he would have chosen the end of the ramp.

The last couple of years of his life were hell.

He was having trouble breathing.

Being in that living hell... he put his life in perspective.

I think he probably thought a lot about the things he'd done and thought about how badly he treated some people.

He was preparing for the end on every level.

He righted a lot of wrongs with people because he felt like that was important.

It became important to him.

He told me he'd led a life that he was ashamed of in a lot of ways and he was just trying to talk to the people that he truly... that truly meant something to him was the way he put it and he put it right.

He said to me "I was so sick."

He said "I was just a sick person with women... so wrong."

I said "Oh Dad, it's so good to hear you say that."

He tried to make amends with people at the end and that's great.

But it's kind of tough to put the toothpaste back in the tube at that point.

He caused a lot of hurt.

Well, it was the first time I ever heard him say "I'm sorry."

He was pretty much on his deathbed... yeah.

He just said "I'm sorry." That was it.

You know... the most important thing in life... that really counts is your scorecard with God.

The real Bob Knievel, the Bobby Knievel, that's the guy I knew and that's the guy that I loved.

That's the guy that was emerging back out of the slime.

And... I was moved by it.

I talked to him the night before he died.

He said "You gotta do me a favour" and I says "Okay, what?"

And he says "Say a prayer for me once and a while."

I said "Okay, all right."

He says "I'm worse than you think."

I was on the phone with Evel.

He started coughing.

The phone dropped.

He went unconscious.

So that was it.

But it was hard.

I wasn't ready.

But, he was ready.

And that's what was important.

You just never thought that Evel was gonna die.

You know, he was indestructible and then...

It just reminded you that he was human.

I didn't lose the daredevil.

I lost this little kid, who at one time I thought was my brother.

That's the indelible Knievel to me.

I still think he's a superhero.

Yeah, I know a more complete story now.

Some of the stuff is really hear-breaking.

But to me... what he did transcends that.

Most of us don't take chances in our lives.

Most of us aren't willing to lay it on the line like he was.

What my dad did, nobody is ever gonna do again.

But there is a little Evel in all of us.

I guess I'd like to have him remembered as... a man, who, when he was down, got back up.

He never quit.

I think in fairness to him we should not remember the evil that Evel did.

Instead, he should be remembered for the good things he did.

In times of stress I believe that somebody on a white horse in a white hat will arrive... that's the American way.

Life's pretty tough.

Life can be pretty fucking tough.


you need your heroes, man.

He used to always say to me

"That canyon has not moved one inch.

"And I do not see a long line of daredevils waiting to jump it."

Captions (c) SBS Australia 2016